Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

IAAPA recognises industry leaders with Service and Young Professional of the Year Awards at IAAPA Expo 2019

IAAPA recognized the 2019 IAAPA Service Award winners and the 2019 Young Professional of the Year Award winner during the annual GM and Owners’ Breakfast at IAAPA Expo 2019 on Wednesday, Nov. 20 in Orlando, Florida. The IAAPA Service Awards honor individuals for their outstanding contributions to the global attractions industry. This year’s IAAPA Service Award recipients are Greg O’Neill of Leisure and Amusement Services, Queensland, Australia; Geoff Chutter of WhiteWater in British Columbia, Canada; and Ash Smart, ICAE, of Harbour Park in Littlehampton, United Kingdom. Earlier this week at the Kickoff Event, the IAAPA Board of Directors honoured Hank Salemi, park president of Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, United States, with a special Service Award.

The IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award honours members under the age of 35 who demonstrate a dedication to the global attractions industry through strong leadership, teamwork, and integrity. This year’s recipient is Michael Browning, CEO and founder of Urban Air Adventure Park, in Dallas, Texas, United States.

IAAPA Lifetime Service Award Winner – Greg O’Neill, Leisure and Amusement Services Ltd., Queensland, Australia
Greg O’Neill, company director of Leisure and Amusement Services Ltd. in Queensland, Australia, received the IAAPA Lifetime Service Award, which recognises a member individual’s consistent and long-term achievements serving the association and the global attractions industry for more than 20 years. As a third-generation showman, O’Neill bought his first amusement ride at age 15 and has been a longstanding champion of the attractions industry, throughout Australia and around the world. He was instrumental with the formation of the Australian Amusement Leisure and Recreation Association (AALARA). O’Neill has served as a speaker, moderator, and presenter at global conferences and seminars, including AALARA, IAAPA, and WorkSafe Victoria, and has attended global meetings to promote harmonisation of amusement safety standards worldwide. His service to IAAPA includes serving on the IAAPA Board of Directors, Asia Pacific Regional Advisory Committee, Asia Pacific Membership and Education Committees, and the global Membership and Governance Committees.

IAAPA Outstanding Service Award Winner – Geoff Chutter, WhiteWater, British Columbia, Canada

Geoff Chutter, founder and CEO of WhiteWater in British Columbia, Canada, received the IAAPA Outstanding Service Award, which is presented in recognition of a member individual who works to foster the spirit of goodwill, professionalism, and higher levels of performance within the industry regionally, nationally, or internationally. A longtime attractions industry veteran whose involvement in IAAPA spans more than three decades, Chutter leads one of the largest designers and suppliers of water parks in the world. In 1981, Chutter opened WhiteWater Waterpark in Penticton, Canada, and began manufacturing his own water slides. As an industry pioneer, his strategic vision diversified WhiteWater’s product range to cover a variety of water park rides including water slides, wave pools and rivers, wet interactive play, and surfing systems. Under Chutter’s leadership, WhiteWater has been committed to safety and continues to play key roles in IAAPA and ASTM International Committees.

IAAPA Meritorious Service Award Winner – Ash Smart, Harbour Park, Littlehampton, United Kingdom

Ash Smart, ICAE, deputy managing and financial director of Harbour Park in Littlehampton, United Kingdom, was awarded the IAAPA Meritorious Service Award, which is presented in recognition of a member individual’s service to advancing IAAPA’s mission by promoting safe operations, global development, professional growth, and commercial success of the amusement parks and attractions industry. Smart has been instrumental in the creation of IAAPA’s Global Young Professionals programs which combine education forums with networking events at IAAPA Expos around the world. As the chair of the Young Professionals Subcommittee, he played a key role in the committee’s expansion along with the engagement of young professionals throughout the industry. In 2015, he established the IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award. Smart has also been a moderator and speaker at many IAAPA events and has served on several IAAPA Committees including the Investment Committee, Global Membership Committee, Amusement Parks an
d Attractions Committee, the Hall of Fame Committee, and the Global Education and Member Services Task Force.

Board of Directors Special Service Award – Hank Salemi, Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois, United States
The IAAPA Board of Directors presented a special Service Award to Hank Salemi, park president of Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, United States, in recognition of his exemplary service to IAAPA. For five years, Salemi served on the IAAPA board as the association’s treasurer and chairman of the IAAPA Compensation Committee. During this time, he was critical in guiding major decisions for the association, including its headquarters relocation to Orlando, the selection and appointment of a new president and CEO, the financing and construction of IAAPA’s new global headquarters, and the tracking of finances for the growing organisation.

To learn more about the IAAPA Service Awards, visit

IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award – Michael Browning, Urban Air Adventure Park, Dallas, Texas, United States 
Michael Browning, CEO and founder of Urban Air Adventure Park in Dallas, Texas, United States, was presented the IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award. Nine years ago, Browning created the concept of Urban Air Adventure Park, which today under its successful franchise model, has more than 200 locations across the U.S. As a champion for industry safety and global standards, he shares new safety information with his senior leadership team, who then inform franchise owners and their staff. Browning also serves on the IAAPA Family Entertainment Center (FEC) Committee and frequently contributes as a panelist and speaker at industry events. He also founded “The Chosen Ones Birthday Wish Program,” a program that donates birthday parties at Urban Air locations to homeless children.

To learn more about the IAAPA Young Professional of the Year Award, visit

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